How sustainability can fight back: Giles Crosse Investigates
2016 has been a challenging year for sustainability. Content Coms’ green expert writes Giles Crosse analyses the current landscape and looks to the future.
To begin with, a new, isolationist US President Trump looks unlikely to favour energy efficiency or renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. Trump’s appointment of Rex Tillerson, Chief Executive Officer of oil giant ExxonMobil, has furthered concerns.
The Guardian quotes Kathy Mulvey, Accountability Campaign Manager and Advocate for the Climate & Energy team at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Coupled with the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA administration, there’s a real concern that President-elect Trump is creating a government of, by, and for the oil and gas industry.”
Meanwhile, at home, Conservatives continue to grapple with the Pandora’s Box that is Brexit; with the thousands upon thousands of pages of law to reconsider, rewrite, revoke or eliminate. All the while seeking to manage inflation and keep the UK’s economy on track.
Thwink.org, a sustainability thinktank has previously written; ‘Once a war breaks out, environmental sustainability has zero priority.’
That’s undoubtedly true; in Iraq oil wells burned uncontrollably, in Vietnam forests were razed to the ground with napalm.
While recent uprisings in the US and UK have been political, not military, sustainability nonetheless feels encircled; its priorities denied by naysayers and its importance undermined by the new political order. Not once was it mentioned in the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
And any extra disruption to the EU, from a forthcoming French election could undermine it further, hurting the Union that’s done the most to advance consensual sustainability law and theory.
Under this covert political siege, how can sustainability fight back?
Writing for EDIE, Forum for the Future Founder/Director Jonathon Porritt has also noticed the challenges to sustainability. He writes; “The recent ‘shocks’ to the political establishments in both Europe and the USA have led many to predict a period of intensive political turbulence.”
Porritt’s sense is this turbulence is driven by the need to reinvent capitalism, into a new form that actually recognises the disenfranchised who voted Trump/Brexit. Porritt believes that as part of this, a new, disrupted model of corporate sustainability is urgently needed.
He argues very few CEOs or Chairs of Boards have spoken out against the structural deficiencies in the current capitalist model; the very deficiencies that led many voters to rebel through Brexit and rejecting Clinton.
Because of this, the same business leaders are now directly identified through, “Their silence and through their massively inflated salaries,” with an inherently unfair and unsustainable system, in both societal and environmental terms.
Porritt could be right. What struggling, disenfranchised US voter is swayed by the CSR record of a US firm he will never aspire to work for? Which Brexiteer will pick the EU’s world leading green legislation over more jobs for the North?
“It seems reasonable to assume that the next generation of corporate sustainability will be fundamentally transformed,” Porritt writes. “And that has to be a good thing, with the world and so many of its people still in such pain and strife.”
Sustainability’s return to the top
Let’s address the realities. We know that sustainable companies and policies are better equipped to deliver equitable, long term environmental and capital wealth. Put simply, you can’t build jobs on a fossil fuel industry when there are no more fossils to burn.
Trump’s voters, craving work and economic transformation, will soon learn the truth of this. But will Porritt’s next-gen corporate sustainability be transformed in time to answer the call, when politicians who’ve failed to solve issues through isolationist rhetoric rediscover CSR, cooperation, green lawmaking and social, environmental ethics?
The truth is that the world’s top corporate thinkers need to plan today, for what their sustainability response will be when the politicians, and the voters come calling. After all, these thinkers know green, globalist firms are already delivering sustainable economics Trump cannot.
If these sustainability plans are readied and tested in advance, the ultimate legacy of Trump/Brexit will be a more politically-centralised, long term sustainability than was ever possible before. And the world environment, its citizens and our bank balances will be all the better for that.
But the thinking, and the responses, must be developed now, before the failed isolationists come running for aid.
And, let no one forget that sustainability, until it drifts down into true jobs and prosperity for all, will continue to miss its true calling.
Content Coms is one of the UK’s leading B2B communications consultancies specialising in the energy, low carbon and technology sectors. If you’ve enjoyed our article, how about reading more of our energy news and analysis?